In Iraq, Wahhab’s father worked for the American army. In 2008, the American army left Iraq which made his dad a target for the Islamic State (IS). Wahhab and his family were forced to hide and flee to the Netherlands because of their Yazidi identity. Wahhab explains that Yazidis are a Kurdish group of people that are neither Christian nor Islamic but follow an old Mesopotamian religion. Since the advance of IS, the Yazidis and other minority groups have been massacred. On top of this, women and children are abducted, traded, and raped by IS. However, when they try to escape this terror, they are left to their own devices by the Islamic law in Iraq.
IS further advanced into his home country, which led Wahhab to create the NLhelptYezidi’s foundation. “First and foremost, I was done with the war. I was a refugee trying to rebuild my life. When IS advanced, I was shocked.” Wahhab was then approached by the NPO with whom he went back to Iraq to make a documentary in which he was looking for his lost family members. “After the broadcast in the Netherlands, I got messages from people all around the country offering to help me. That’s why and how I founded NLhelptYezidi’s.”
The NLhelptYezidi’s foundation spreads awareness of the humanitarian crisis with which Yazidis and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq are confronted. “We focus on aspects of refuge, integration, but also the acknowledgement of the genocide by national and international political institutions. The UN and EU have already acknowledged the genocide. The Dutch parliament followed last year and Germany is set to acknowledge the genocide in the upcoming year” Wahhab explains.
Wahhab began studying political science at the VU to further spread Yazidi awareness in both national and international political institutions. “Initially, I wanted to become a pilot which is why I studied Aviation and attended the KLM Flight Academy introduction. However, when the IS genocide advanced, I left everything from my technical studies behind toward political science to understand what was happening and why my people were victims of this terror. With both political science and my foundation, I want to create a platform through which I help Yazidis and give a voice to seemingly forgotten people.”
NLhelptYezidi’s is not Wahhab’s only project to stimulate awareness of this humanitarian crisis. He is also a national freedom day (5 May) ambassador to bring Dutch people and newcomers closer together. “We try to break through the stigma that we come to the Netherlands to merely seek fortune by showing that we are refugees of war. We do so by telling our stories during guest lectures at schools and universities.”
Another part of Wahhab’s activism is the legal prosecution of social media platforms and their facilitation of human rights violations. “IS uses Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms to recruit members, use hate speech, and enforce a slave trade. For example, my cousin was traded via WhatsApp. This violates international and national law. This also poses a threat to national security as Dutch people are also recruited on these social media platforms for the IS jihad. We published a report about this which has now enforced a conversation between multiple parties.”
With his master's programme, he eventually wants to break through and bridge the divide between refugees and non-refugees. “You can take a child out of the war, but you can never take the war out of the child. I have not yet fully recovered from my trauma, but I think that my story and activism can show people that hate merely leads to misery. I want to create understanding on both sides of the divide: with both Dutch and non-Dutch people, to show how hate attacks and victimizes us all. This ambition has helped me to survive and could help other people to survive as well.”
For more information about NLhelptYezidi's and Wahhab's NPO documentary, click here.
Click here for Wahhab's "Give Freedom a Face" freedom ambassador video.
For more information about the European Parliament's recognition of the IS genocide, click here.
For more information about the UN's recognition of the IS genocide, click here.